I’d just like to say for the record that my stripper shoes were usually black, and I never would have worn them with nude pantyhose. The shoes pictured, though, are the right height and shape, designed to make my ankles look as fragile as a fawn’s while forcing me to walk like a lady unless I wanted to fall flat on my face. There are many good arguments against stiletto heels: they shorten the achilles tendon, cause back problems, prevent one from running for the bus or from an attacker, perpetuate the stereotype that femininity is synonymous with immobility, as well as being honestly kind of corny… but the one thing that stiletto heels have in their controversial favor is this: they make your legs look like a million bucks.
When I quit stripping, I didn’t realize I was quitting. I don’t remember the particulars of my last night on the job, except that I’d earned enough money to make going to work optional for the next week… and then the next one, as well. And then I just never went back. The last time I shut my locker was the last time I saw that long sparkly blue gown that Madison gave to me because it matched her pink one, or the black satin teddy with the garters that looked like something straight out of Cabaret, or the spunky little turquoise mesh ice-skater-Tinkerbell number, or those shoes that looked like they were created out of rhinestones and ice. They could be there still for all I know. And for the most part, I haven’t missed them… much… except for the shoes.
I wouldn’t wear them out. Just kinda… around the house and stuff. On chubby days, during the weeks straight I often spend wearing same pair of New Balances. Just to remind me that I’m still sexy even though I no longer get paid for it.
Even while I had my job at the strip club, I often felt like a sexy-fraud. When acquaintances found out what I did for a living, I could see them taking in the jeans and T-shirts I wear in civilian-mode and straining to translate this, mentally, into the tacky glittersphere of a strip club. “You’re a stripper?” they’d blurt out, then whisper, “for real?” It’s true that I have never been stereotypically blond, tan, or easily distracted by shiny objects lying on the sidewalk. But it sort of hurt my feelings that I was apparently far enough removed from the persona of “hot fantasy babe” as to inspire doubt whether I was telling the truth about my job. I was never sure, after hearing these doubts expressed, whether to defiantly demonstrate my authenticity on the nearest subway pole or to thank the person. But however I chose to take it, I could always comfort myself that I was, in fact, a stripper, and sometimes even a pretty good one.
Now that I don’t dance anymore, most of the comfort I could once take in my job’s sexy-credentials is no longer valid. When I was working, I used to enjoy the anonymity of walking down the street with no makeup and a scarf on my head, my day-to-day existence mostly unencumbered by the responsibility of being looked at all the time. Then, come night, I’d morph into my stripper self, a change as drastic as Selina Kyle’s transformation into Catwoman. The secretive thrill of effectively being two different versions of myself never wore off for me. Now, though, I’m just kind of some girl. And the low-maintenance persona I project while grocery shopping or eating lunch with a friend is the only one I have. It took me almost eight months of feeling vaguely depressed to realize that I need the sexy part of myself just as much as I crave privacy.
It’s time to finish what I started when I became a stripper in the first place: integrating these parts of myself that so often seem to be at odds with each other. My mom, bless her, is from the school of vintage feminist thought that believes the advancement of women correllates directly with how little they give a shit about what they look like. It’s been rare for me, even while growing up in the same house, to even glimpse so much as her collarbone beneath one of her crewneck sweaters (though she’s never thought twice about allowing me to see her in full flagrante while she’s changing or taking a bath). My father is the kind of man who, upon hearing about what kind of wedding I wanted when I was in middle school, says, “Maybe you won’t get married. Maybe you’ll be one of those women who’s just really into her career.” I was taught many things by my parents, many things that have stood me in good stead as I’ve grown up. But sexy was not one of them.
My body, as it turned out, rebelled for me: after resigning myself to being flat-chested and interesting for the rest of my life when I turned fourteen without growing any boobs to speak of, I scandalized the entire neighborhood by waking up one morning with a pair of pneumatic D-cups. And life changed. For the worse, I thought. They didn’t get me anything except unwanted attention from boys I had no interest in and a stricter set of rules at home. Fuck sex. I wanted nothing to do with it.
In college, I went through a series of relationships with boys that ended when I was forced to be a real person instead of the smart-girl tease I enjoyed playing in order to get the attention I craved while staving off the intimacy I feared. I learned to separate my little game from real relationships through trial and error, but I still felt disconnected and unsatisfied. It wasn’t until I walked into a local strip club and asked for a job that I felt I had a solution to this need of mine to “get away with” being sexy, which I still equated with being “bad.”
I did it. I got away with everything. It wasn’t even hard. My parents still love me. I never became soulless, man-hating, or overly money hungry (as it is rumored that every stripper necessarily is). I just kind of did my thing for a few years and then got out.
Now all I want is permission to wear a push-up bra under a cute low-cut top when I go out for a drink without hearing my mother’s voice in my head asking me who I’m trying to impress. Or to spend two hours giving myself a pedicure in my underwear while listening to Black Sabbath without thinking of all the other, more important, things I should be doing. To dress up in pink lace lingerie for the guy I’m dating without feeling diminished, as though I have somehow lost face when he thinks it’s calculated to please him. I want to weigh the cost of taking a cab to a party against the vain, glorious joys of wearing super-high heels and decide in favor of the heels. Instead of wanting to get away with being sexy under some secretive pretense, I want to wake up every morning feeling as though it’s my unabashed right.
I think my first step will be to buy myself another pair of stripper shoes. Just to wear, you know, around the house.
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